STRUGGLE: Jason Smith lost his finger in a workplace accident at Boeing.
STRUGGLE: Jason Smith lost his finger in a workplace accident at Boeing. Rob Williams

Dad loses finger, still waiting for compensation

WHAT started out feeling like little more than a bee sting quickly turned into a horror story for Ipswich dad Jason Smith.

It was while working for Boeing on the Amberley RAAF Base in June, 2016, that Mr Smith suffered an injury that would change his life.

A faulty battery-powered grease gun was blamed for the incident, in which a blast of grease entered Mr Smith's hand at an estimated 8-12,000 PSI , piercing his glove and skin.

From that point on, the condition of his hand worsened to the point where surgeons were left with little option but to amputate Mr Smith's ring finger.

"The gun had a blockage caused by a bent tip," Mr Smith said.

"When I pushed the trigger there was a sound like a gun blast, and I felt sort of a bee-sting sensation.

"I was going to keep working but my coworker had a look at it and squeezed the finger and said, 'you are done'."

Mr Smith was taken to hospital, and within a few hours the seriousness of the injury was beginning to become more obvious.

Despite the fact the initial wound was only small, it was what was beneath the wound that did the damage.

Doctors struggled for months and carried out five operations in an attempt to remove the grease from Mr Smith's hand.

"They were still finding grease in there 12 months later," Mr Smith said.

"It was coming out in lumps."

Photos taken during his treatment show a large, open wound running from the middle section of his ring finger, right down to the base of his palm.

In addition to bearing the very obvious physical scars that resulted from the incident, Mr Smith wants to get the message out to employers and workers that serious workplace injuries also take a big toll on family life, social life, and mental wellbeing.

More than three years on from losing his ring finger in the incident, Mr Smith is still waiting for compensation from the insurer.

He also spoke of the difficulties of adjusting to life without the full use of his hand.

"It does affect your family greatly," he said.

"It affects your relationships because you have to rely more on people around you to do everyday things."

Maurice Blackburn senior associate Michaela Bartonkova said cases like Mr Smith's demonstrated the importance of workplace safety, and proper training for employees.

Maurice Blackburn has been assisting Mr Smith since the incident.

"We are in talks with the insurer to negotiate a settlement," Ms Bartonkova said.

"With injuries like Jason's, it is often a case of us having to approach the insurer, because they rarely come to us in these situations.

"We take into account the pain and suffering and economic loss, and how it affects his ability to find work in the future.

"The psychological impact is often overlooked because you cannot provide an X-ray to show it, and often it doesn't show on the face of the person suffering."

Mr Smith said he hoped his story would help encourage employers to ensure workers had the correct training and that equipment was properly maintained.

"A person is not a piece of equipment that you can throw away if it is damaged," he said.

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